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Putin accuses West of ‘robbery’ through sanctions in national speech on flagging economy


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Russian President Vladimir Putin accused the West on Thursday of “robbery” by operating under the guise of sanctions as international penalties bite Moscow’s economy. 

The U.S., along with its G7 and EU allies, implemented swift and severe sanctions following Russia’s invasion of Ukraine and the international penalties have only continued to increase in the nearly 10 months since.

But Putin has refused to end his deadly campaign in Ukraine and in his Thursday speech blamed the West for what he called an unjustified “economic war.”

Putin

Russian President Vladimir Putin attends a cabinet meeting at the Novo-Ogaryovo residence outside Moscow, Russia, Wednesday, Dec. 14, 2022.  (Mikhail Metzel, Sputnik, Kremlin Pool Photo via AP / AP Newsroom)

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“Unprecedented sanctions aggression has been launched against Russia. It was aimed at, in a short time, essentially crushing our economy, through the robbery of our foreign exchange reserves, to collapse the national currency – the ruble – and provoke destructive inflation,” he said according to a readout posted by the Kremlin. 

Putin claimed the hit Western nations had estimated Russia would take under tough sanctioning has not been what was originally projected – noting Russia’s GDP will fall by 2.5 percent in 2022 from 2021, opposed to the 20 percent that was allegedly expected.

Though the impacts of import/export bans, blocks on its foreign reserves and being booted from the SWIFT international banking system is being felt across Russia, and some reports have suggested that Russian wallets will be impacted more greatly in 2023 as oil boycotts go into greater effect.

The EU and G7 have set oil price caps that are expected to impact Russian oil exports by limiting how much Moscow can earn from its top commodity while also ensuring that oil prices at the pump stay down globally.

Russia oil field in the snow

A general view shows an oil treatment plant in the Yarakta Oil Field, owned by Irkutsk Oil Company (INK), in Irkutsk Region, Russia, March 10, 2019.  (REUTERS/Vasily Fedosenko / Reuters Photos)

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Putin said the Kremlin is looking to counter Western sanctions by expanding trade agreements with new partners and by sharply increasing gas exports to the East, particularly to nations like China.

Moscow began supplying Beijing with oil in 2019 through the Power of Siberia Pipeline, which supplied roughly 10 billion cubic meters (bcm) of gas in 2021. Though according to Putin those sales will spike to 88 bcm by 2030, reported Reuters.  

“Western countries were trying to push Russia to the periphery of world development. But we will never take the route of self-isolation,” he said. “On the contrary, we are broadening, and will broaden, cooperation with all who have an interest in that.”

Putin also claimed that despite European sanctions, EU nations increased their supply of “basic goods” by 1.5 times and Turkey reportedly doubled its Russian oil imports in August. 

Sberbank

A woman leaves a branch of Russia’s majority state-owned banking and financial services company Sberbank in Moscow on April 7, 2022.  (NATALIA KOLESNIKOVA/AFP via Getty Images / Getty Images)

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Despite the picture Putin was attempting to paint, energy sales to EU nations have drastically fallen and are expected to be even lower in 2023 once oil bans take effect. 

Putin, who is up for election in 2024, pledged to increase minimum wage in an attempt to protect the poorest across Russia.



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